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A statistical fracture model for Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers


Antarctica and Greenland hold enough ice to raise sea level by more than 65 m if both ice sheets were to melt completely. Predicting future ice sheet mass balance depends on our ability to model these ice sheets, which is limited by our current understanding of several key physical processes, such as iceberg calving. Large-scale ice flow models either ignore this process or represent it crudely. To model fractured zones, an important component of many calving models, continuum damage mechanics as well as linear fracture mechanics are commonly used. However, these methods have a large number of uncertainties when applied across the entire Antarctic continent because the models were typically tuned to match processes seen on particular ice shelves. Here we present an alternative, statistics-based method to model the most probable zones of the location of fractures and demonstrate our approach on all main ice shelf regions in Antarctica, including the Antarctic Peninsula. We can predict the location of observed fractures with an average success rate of 84 % for grounded ice and 61 % for floating ice and a mean overestimation error rate of 26 % and 20 %, respectively. We found that Antarctic ice shelves can be classified into groups based on the factors that control fracture location.

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